Thursday, February 9, 2012
'How many more tragedies before search and rescue problems are finally addressed'
I posed the following questions in the House of Commons on Thursday, Feb. 9th:
The tragedies in Newfoundland and Labrador as the result of inadequate search and rescue continue to mount.
The latest victim is 14-year-old Burton Winters of Makkovik, Labrador.
The Defence Department revealed Wednesday its Goose Bay-based Griffon helicopters were out of service.
Déjà vu, Mr. Speaker.
In 2009, when the Cougar helicopter went down off Newfoundland, the Gander-based Cormorants were in Nova Scotia and also unavailable.
How many more tragedies before search and rescue problems are finally addressed?
Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence:
Mr. Speaker, as I have said a number of times, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of young Burton Winters.
Certainly his family, friends, his entire community of Makkovik and officials were in Newfoundland yesterday providing detailed analysis of the circumstances around this tragedy.
A full investigation has now been completed and we have a much greater understanding of the timeline and the way that these tragic events unfolded.
Both the RCMP and Canadian Forces officials have explained some of these circumstances.
There are improvements that can be made perhaps in protocol and we are in a constant state of update and improvement.
Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, that is cold comfort for Newfoundland and Labrador mariners.
That is no comfort.
It is one thing for National Defence to state it met its own standards; it is another to say the response to Makkovik was satisfactory and the equipment adequate.
Yesterday's press conference raised more questions than it answered.
First we learned weather delays prevented the rescue.
Now we learn the helicopters in the region were out of commission.
What is the real story?
Will the government finally fix search and rescue? Will the government finally fix what is broken?
Mr. Speaker, let us keep a few facts in mind.
Our country has the largest search and rescue territory on the planet.
We have dedicated SAR TECHs who do their best each and every time.
As officials said yesterday and the member has just repeated, the weather in Makkovik in fact was a factor when the first call came in and it impacted on officials' decisions as to when to dispatch aircraft.
As explained by Admiral Gardam yesterday, the weather was an issue, the first call came 20 hours after this young man had apparently left his home. A second call came some 51 hours later.